Sunday, February 15, 2009

The black river is blue

Rivers are generally blue. The Yamuna is black, at least at Quadasia ghat. I am ignorant of the numbers dealing with the Yamuna-its age, length, maintenance cost etc. All that matters is that we are all killing it, slowly but surely. Industrial waste, our daily garbage (unnecessary bottles of Kinley, Coca cola and Reliance poly bags) and the city’s shit, literally, is fed to the Yamuna. A little too forcefully.
A few days ago a campaign was organised to clean up the Yamuna. Citizens of Delhi picked up the spade and shovel and got to work. It is impossible to manually clean up the mess we have created of the Yamuna. This was an attempt to create awareness and apply pressure for governmental action in this regard.
I decided to do my bit. Lifting the shovel with all my might, flinging it into the river and dragging it out with a load of crap was a strange feeling. Carrying the heavy tray brimming with reeking squander was a reminder of the burden we have cast on the silent river. This was an initiative towards setting things right. Cleaning the Yamuna manually, pulling stubborn plastic pieces with my hands and tiring myself out only seemed fair. Four days later when my body continued to ache it still seemed fair. A week later, when only the shoe bites from the gum boots remain it still seems fair. I have contributed to the pollution in the Yamuna. I better clear it up. Cleaning the Yamuna felt extremely natural, like cutting overgrown nails. But the black river, a stark contrast below the blue, reeked of mutilation.
This experience was my first brush with manual labour. Of course, in those rubber boots and gloves it was a far cry from ground reality. Yet, it was painful. I couldn’t push myself beyond that one hour. Lakhs of labourers are exposed to worse working conditions for long hours and are underpaid for the same. The hot water bath that I came back to only reemphasised the injustice in our social systems. Meanwhile, we create the mess ,others clean it up. Life goes on.

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